5. Ironbound (2010)
Hands down one of the greatest albums in the Overkill catalog, and it stands as the record which broke through a decade of lethargy and complacency for the band and fans. It’s Overkill in overdrive. The title track alone is arguably one of the band’s five most brilliant songs ever. The album’s ominously weighty opener “The Green and Black” sets it off nicely. “Bring Me the Night” is pure Motorhead on steroids fuel. And the riffs…the record is packed with some of their best all the way through to the juggernaut album closer, “The SRC.” There’s a reason every album since Ironbound‘s release is compared to this later era benchmark. Excellent production, fantastic performances, and a strong amount of diversity, all within the signature Overkill mold.
4. The Years of Decay (1989)
The trademark Blitz vocals begin to emerge with the group’s fourth album, The Years of Decay. It’s not surprising as the group establishes its own voice that they release their two greatest records back to back. It would be the band’s last album as a quartet, and the last to feature guitarist Bobby Gustafson. The combo of Blitz, Verni, Gustafson, and drummer Sid Falck created a genuine trash masterpiece withe The Years of Decay. Terry Date came on board to produce, so naturally the sound fucking slayed. The album delivered classics like “Elimination,” “Birth of Tension,” “E.vil N.ver D.ies,” “I Hate,” and the behemoth Sabbathy classic, “Playing with Spiders/Skullcrusher.” When I was initially sketchying out these rankings, Years of Decay came into argument for first or second place, but ultimately I have to admit, to some degree Overkill still seemed to be inadvertantly chasing Metallica here. And while I applaud the experimentation Overkill began with this album, three drawn out 8-minute-plus epics made the album lag a bit.
3. The Wings of War (2019)
It almost seems like heavy metal heresy to plant Overkill‘s newest effort this high on the list, but it is simply that fucking good. As strongly as the band kick-started this decade with Ironbound, they close it with another mammoth beast of an album. The Wings of War is a declarative statement to the world, we’re not fucking around, and we’re not going close to hanging up the jeans and engineer boots. Right from the crushing opening salvo of “Last Man Standing” its clear Overkill is pit ready. “Head of a Pin” is one of the groups finest songs to date, and “Bat Shit Crazy” is a calling card anthem that should have been written three decades ago. “Welcome to the Garden State” is a reminder of the band’s punk roots and sense of humor, while “Where Few Dare to Walk” is a menacing groove fueled bruiser. The Wings of War is pure thrash ear candy from front to back.
2. Feel the Fire (1985)
The band’s debut is simply an early thrash masterpiece. Full metal riot gear cranked up on 10, blistering with high energy and an unbridled sense of fun. Feel the Fire suffers some of the production flaws that many thrash bands endured in the 80s, but for raw aggression and enthusiasm, you cannot beat this record. The album leans more into the speed metal wheelhouse than thrash, but the roots are there. Blitz’s vocals are more strident and less nasally and wailing as we’d come to identify the Overkill sound with. There is an unbridled spontaneous sense to this record, and the quality of riffs are a highlight (though Carl Canedy’s production muted them greatly). Had they experienced some better support, production, and good fortune, there is no doubt Feel the Fire would have pushed Overkill into the Big 4 conversation. Feel the Fire is an essential early thrash starter kit.
1. Horrorscope (1991)
Was there ever really any doubt which Overkill album would grab the top spot? On the heals of the band’s defiantly powerful effort, The Years of Decay, the band came back with its seminal work. Horrorscope marks the band’s first album as a quintet with guitarists Merritt Gant and Rob Cannavino after the departure of Gustafson. Any concern about a weakening in songwriting is laid to rest on the album opener, “Coma.” The album turned out to be Overkill‘s most mature album and offered a fair amount of diversity (by Overkill standards), but proved they were certainly a thrash force to be reckoned with. Blitz finally began crafting stronger lyrical content and his vocal style continued to come into its own. Songs like the buzz saw thrashers “Blood Money” “Thanx for Nothing,” and the darkly atmospheric “Soulitude” are among the band’s most enduring tracks. Yet one cannot overlook the brilliance of tracks like “Nice Day…For a Funeral” and “Bare Bones.” The title cut, “Horrorscope” out dooms some of the great purveyors of the genre. Verni’s bass is simply evil. The album is packed with chunky riffage, and they still maintain their punk ethos, even as they decimate with their plodding moments of crushing trituration. This is the album that truly anchored the band’s sound and style, and while the rest of the 90s they would (like their contemporaries) play with other elements of groove, hardcore, and even hints of nu-metal, Horrorscope would be the foundation from which the band would so often return.